The problem of protesting

America codified the act of protesting in our Constitution. It’s very clearly written in the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Since 1791, this has been the law of the land.

College campuses have always held a special place in the history of the United States and North America. They have been here for an extremely long time. Harvard dates to 1636, William and Mary started in 1693, Yale opened in 1701, the University of Pennsylvania began in 1714, Princeton in 1746 and Columbia University was established in 1754. They were here even before we had a country. The goal was always to teach young people to read, to think and to communicate effectively.

When did protests start on our campuses? At Harvard in 1638, students railed against its president for physically beating students as discipline. The students took their president to court, and they won.

In 1961, protests landed at the US Supreme Court where the decision on Dixon vs. Alabama brought us the end of in loco parentis. Before that, a university or college, acting as the “local parent,” could violate a student’s civil rights. That can no longer happen.

By 1964, a very powerful free speech movement was started at the University of California, Berkeley, which some claim was the birth of American student activism, even though US students had been protesting since the 17th Century.

Many of the early American protests involved Black colleges and schools due to an extensive list of discriminatory practices and policies by the universities. Most people don’t realize that one of the biggest Black student uprisings happened in 1968 at Kent State University in Ohio, when 250 black students walked off campus in a successful amnesty bid for a group of black protesters who had been dismissed from the University earlier.

In my life we had Vietnam War protests in 1970 that led to 4 dead students at Kent State. In 1983, Berkeley was in the news again with their protest against apartheid. That movement was very successful, forcing the City of Berkeley to take its funds out of banks doing business with South Africa. Colleges and Universities are large corporations with millions of dollars in the bank, so they invest your money.

It’s a fact that student protests have been effective at initiating change and making the world a better place. In my opinion, the Vietnam protests, even though rejected by the government and neocons, cast a first blow that began to sway the opinions of the general population to end an unjust war. Of course, the endless stream of body-bags also got people angry and pushed that effort along.

Many are having difficulty comprehending or justifying the current protests on campuses across America against… well, I guess, against Israel and war in general?

I think laying out some facts will be helpful.

#1 Hamas is a political and military movement, not a country or a people.

#2 Israel is a country formed in 1949 by an agreement in the United Nations.

#3 Palestine is a state and country which declared itself independent in 1988. It includes land on the West Bank of the Jordan River and a small strip of land between Israel and Egypt called Gaza.

#4 There have been 16 wars fought between Israel and Palestine since 1948. The most famous was the Six Day War in 1967, when Israel took control of the Gaza Strip and held the land until a settlement arranged for Gaza to be turned over to the Palestine Authority, a government body.

#5 There has never been an exact border established between the Palestinian state and Israel, thus so many conflicts and disturbances.

Israel doesn’t want a two-state solution and does not want Palestine to be a country, although according to the UN they are a country. On the other hand, the most radical members of Hamas, the party in power in the Palestinian Authority, has a mission statement that Israel shouldn’t have a right to exist. Some more radical members of Hamas say Israel should be blown off the face of the Earth. We’ve all had bad neighbors, but this is horrible.

So those who claim they can bring these parties together are misguided, deranged idiots. When Donald Trump announced that he was sending his son-in-law Jared Kushner into the conflict with pipe dreams of peace, most experts laughed. I laughed the most.

On October 7th and 8th 2023, Hamas and several Palestinian militant groups conducted a coordinated, armed incursion from the Garza strip into Israel. They started their invasion with more than 3,000 rockets. Then, Hamas attackers killed 1,139 people and took more than 250 Israeli soldiers and civilians including 30 children. They are hostages of Hamas and only a few have been released.

Since then, Israel Defense Forces launched a relentless and major attack on Gaza. According to most experts, almost 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in the last 100 days. There’s nothing good about war and this one has caused more than 200,000 Palestinians and Gazans to be displaced.

Another fact that some might know, the US Treasury sends $3.3 billion in aid to Israel annually. A much lesser-known fact is the US Government has provided more than $7.6 billion in assistance to the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1993. In fact, just this week, President Biden signed a bill passed by Congress providing $26 billion for Israel and for humanitarian aid in Gaza and other places. See, kids, we do care!

Most of the college students protesting on US campuses today may have a valid concern about the vast number of people and children being killed, but few of them appreciate the nature of the Middle East and a conflict that some might say has been baked into the region.

Few of the Palestinian flag-waving kids on US campuses understand or even know the facts. While they might think it’s cool chanting slogans against Israel and repeating Nazi tropes, they are not being helpful. Jews in America will always support Israel, and I would venture that only some of the people marching and camping out on the quad at Columbia know the history of Palestine. And if you think the Jewish people in America are a bit senstive, remember, six million people of the faith were eliminated in World War II by a guy who wanted them off the face of the Earth, too.

Countries will always protect their citizens, and that is why the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu says he’s simply defending his country. I get that, and we can surely debate the level of targeting, death and destruction, but you also might want to look up WAR in the dictionary.

We should be quick to mention that most of the hostages held by Hamas have not been returned to their loved ones. Does Netanyahu really believe he can bomb a nation or terrorist group into negotiation? I hate to say this, but I feel strongly that the leader of Israel believes war keeps him in power. Once this one is over, Netanyahu is history, but the divide will continue.

I understand the need to protest, but the current college students who are closing campuses and forcing their classmates to go online to learn are not being productive. The idea of harassing Jewish students is a problem. As they say, “two wrongs don’t make a right.” Should you produce fear in a certain group of people, you are no better than those terrorists you are supporting. Hey, college joe, the meaning of terrorism is the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims. What is your political game?

There is a vast difference between free speech and presenting your grievances in a way that turns a place of learning into a battlefield. If you are so damn smart to get into these elite schools, you might be smart enough to figure out a better way to get your points across than producing apprehension and sadness.

Yeah, we are all sad these schools have stooped so low, but that’s on the half-baked fake intellectuals who really haven’t taken the time to “know” the real problem.


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One thought on “WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?

  1. It is interesting to learn that the history of student protest predates the founding of the nation itself, but I find myself of two minds about these protests. On one hand, I think Israel MUST defend itself, and send a message that it will never again tolerate attacks on its people, attacks on its soil. If that is what you want to do, this is what you’ll get. But when is enough is enough? My heart breaks for innocent Palestinians driven from their homes to suffer and starve in the streets, watching their families destroyed in a place so reduced to rubble that it is no longer livable for those who survive. Were they complicit in the rise of Hamas? Was turning their back on Hamas because they “weren’t political” enough to excuse them from suffering the consequences of what Hamas did, when Hamas lived with impunity among them? Who will these people be should peace ever come?
    It is probably true that a fair number of protestors in this country and others have joined the fray to meet the opposite sex; the famous rationale voiced in “The Strawberry Statement,” a book about the 1960s occupation of the administration building of Columbia University during the Vietnam war. Also true is that such protests can be fueled by the infamous “outside agitator.” I must admit, these protesters seemed to have arrived better prepared for siege than those of the ’60s. And having lived through that time, I wait with trepidation for the possible deaths that could follow if someone decides to put an end to it “once and for all,” Kent State-style.
    But one thing I observed about the protests of the ’60s from the vantage point of age, and what I HOPE will be true about today’s protests, is that they keep our nation’s focus on what is happening in Israel and Palestine, and continue to put pressure on the need to find a way out.
    For those who are learning on the job — getting there and finding out it is more than a party or a chance to find a date — it is time to understand that what to do going forward is not a binary choice, and that unless we can find in our hearts a respect for the lives, dignity and viewpoint of those who differ from us, peace will always be just another chance to rearm. It’s a tall order to ask of gatherings that may, in some places, be more party than protest — but you came, so learn something from it.

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